Page:Plutarch - Moralia, translator Holland, 1911.djvu/371

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349
Of Proceeding in Virtue

was not given respectively to the increase of sums of money alone, and in that point truly spoken, but it may likewise extend and reach to other things, and namely to the augmentation of virtue, to wit, when with reason and doctrine continual use and custom is joined, which maketh mastery and is effectual to bring any work to end and perfection; whereas these intermissions at times without order and equality, and these cool affections of those that study philosophy, make not only many stays and lets in proceeding forward as it were in a journey, but that which is worse, cause going backward, by reason that vice, which evermore lies in wait to set upon a man that idly standeth still never so little, haleth him a contrary way. True it is that the mathematicians do call the planets stationary, and say they stand still, while they cease to move forward; but in our progress and proceeding in philosophy, that is to say, in the correction of our life and manners, there can be admitted no interval, no pause or cessation, for that our wit naturally being in perpetual motion in manner of a balance, always casteth with the least thing that is, one way or other, willing of itself either to incline with the better or else is forcibly carried by the contrary to the worse. If then, according to ihe oracle delivered unto the inhabitants of Cirrha, which willed them, if they minded afterwards to live in peace, they should make war both night and day without intermission, thou find in thyself and thine own conscience that thou hast fought continually with vice as well by night as by day, or at leastwise that thou hast not often left thy ward, and abandoned thy station in the garrison, nor continually admitted the heralds or messengers between coming from far as it were to parley and compound, to wit, pleasures, delights, negligences and amusements upon other matters, by all likelihood thou mayst with confidence and alacrity be assured to go forward and make an end of thy course behind.

Moreover, say that there fall out some interruptions and stays between, that thou live not altogether canonically and like a philosopher; yet if thy latter proceedings be more constant than the former, and the fresh courses that thou takest longer than the other, it is no bad sign, but it testifieth that by labour and exercise idleness is conquered and sloth utterly chased away; whereas the contrary is a very ill sign, to wit, if by reason of many cessations and those coming thick one after another, the heat of the former affection be cooled, languish and weareth to nothing: for like as the shoot of a cane or reed, whiles it hath the full strength and greatest force putteth forth the first stem